The Twentieth Wife, Taj Mahal Trilogy book one, written by Indu Sundaresan is an epic seventeenth-century story published in 2002, it is Vaginal Fantasy book clubs main read for the month of December.
The Twentieth Wife is the story of one of India’s most legendary and controversial empresses, whose brilliance and determination helped to overcome many obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. Mehrunnisa came into the world in the year 1577, as the daughter of starving refugees fleeing violent persecution in Persia; her birth marked the being of a new life for her family including her father’s introduction to the court of Emperor Akbar. Mehrunnisa becomes a precocious, intelligent, beautiful, and ambitious woman far surpassing the bounds of her family’s station. Mehrunnisa first encounters young Prince Salim on his wedding day, and at only eight years old decides that she will marry him one day at any cost. The story follows Mehrunnisa through childhood, marriage, motherhood, dangers, power struggles, and political games and ultimately takes the vast Mughal Empire to unforeseen heights.
This story blends the textures of historical reality with the beauty of a timeless fairy tale. The writing brings the world to life vividly and I felt like I was there. The history is kept in mind very well from what I can gather which is important to any historical book and, for me, is what makes this book so worth reading. The love Mehrunnisa and Salim have for each other is dangerous in its single mindedness yet beautiful in its power to endure. Mehrunnisa is a strong woman which can come across as abrasive at times but I liked her. Salim, comes across as shallow in most scenes that don’t involve Mehrunnisa but the pressure of the empire and his substance abuse don’t allow his character much room for growth at times. I enjoyed the character of Ruqayya, Salim’s step mother; she was bold for her time and was enjoyable to read.
First-time novelist Indu Sundaresan sets the bar pretty high for this series and I am intrigued to follow the story to its end.
Vaginal Fantasy book club will not be meeting for a few months so I will not be posting reviews for that but I will post reviews for my own reads in the meantime.
Now go forth, read accurate historical novels, and prosper.